UTS Stop Funding Harassment and Intimidation - Deregister LifeChoice
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CW: sexual harassment, abuse, pregnancy/childbirth, abortion/miscarriage, blood
We request that the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Education and Students) Shirley Alexander and ActivateUTS immediately de-register the LifeChoice UTS Club and end all financial and in-kind support for groups that create an unsafe campus by fostering gender-based harassment and intimidation.
LifeChoice is an anti-choice group which targets students seeking an abortion with partisan misinformation designed to intimidate students making personal decisions regarding their health.
LifeChoice clubs at other university campuses have a history of causing student distress by creating an inaccurate and toxic debate on abortion. In 2013 LifeChoice distributed pamphlets to first-year students at the University of Sydney purporting to educate women about the emergency contraceptive pill RU486. These pamphlets contained medically false claims including a statement that women using RU486 will experience “the trauma of seeing the dead foetus”. The vast majority of women will only see bleeding when using RU486. The “foetuses” anti-choice organisations claim to have observed are actually just blood clotting. The LifeChoice UTS Club must be de-registered to ensure that this behaviour is not brought to UTS campus.
The UTS Student Charter gives all students the right to "enjoy a learning environment which is free from sexual, racial, or gender-based harassment and other forms of intimidation". ActivateUTS implements this right in their Constitution which states "we will value accessibility, sustainability and diversity, and as such we will provide a safe, inclusive and accessible environment to maximise the experience of our community".
The intentions and actions of LifeChoice are a violation of the principles contained in the UTS Student Charter and ActivateUTS Constitution, as LifeChoice targets students seeking an abortion and students who have had an abortion, with intimidation and misinformation creating an unsafe learning environment and community.
Freedom of speech does not require the University or ActivateUTS to spend student money collected by the student service and amenities fee (SSAF) to fund groups which facilitate gender-based harassment, misinformation and intimidation. ActivateUTS is funded by student money to support its members who are students at UTS. The lack of any student consultation before the registration of LifeChoice UTS is not surprising but extremely disappointing. We acknowledge the efforts of women Student Directors to raise this issue with the CEO of ActivateUTS and ask that Board President (UTS Student) Rayan Calimlim publicly support the de-registration of LIfeChoice. In the face of management inaction, it is the ultimate responsibility of student board directors to take leadership of student organisations and ensure that the student voice is heard.
ActivateUTS needs to urgently develop a transparent process for approving club applications to ensure an organisation that facilitates gender-based harassment and intimidation like LifeChoice, is never affiliated again. This approval process must include student consultation and follow the the UTS Student Charter, the objectives of ActivateUTS, and its membership.
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